This book (A Blessing from Above) really hit home when I was reading it to Alianna just a few hours after we talked to her biological mom on the phone. I’m so thankful I was positioned to catch my Little One when she fell out of her Mama’s nest and I’m grateful I have her blessing.
Easter was beautiful this year. The weather. The church service. My people. A quiet afternoon. Dinner with family. My two-year-old daughter’s simple understanding of the meaning of Easter.
I wasn’t necessarily planning on explaining death to her at this age but between one of our chickens dying around the same time as her great-grandmother (and namesake) died, we’ve had some conversations about it already. She understands that dead means gone, we won’t see that person or animal anymore, and their bodies are buried in the ground. Her understand of Easter (thanks very much to the Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones) is this:
Jesus died on the cross. The whole earth was sad and the rocks cracked. They put him in a tomb with a big stone. The stone was rolled away. He’s not there! He came back and He’s alive!
On Saturday as we were driving to the pharmacy I heard her singing in the backseat, “Thank you for the cross. Thank you for the cross.”
A friend with a child a bit younger than mine was wondering if I could share about some of her favorite toys, particularly things that will hold her interest for longer than 5 minutes inside when the weather isn’t conducive to shooing the little ones outside for an adventure. (Click any of the blue text for links to purchase if you’re interested.)
It’s amazing how long the squishy, colorful dough can keep Ali’s attention. She sometimes mixes stickers and toothpicks into the dough, and definitely jumbles the colors. It’s cheap and she’s having fun so I try not to look. Our biggest challenge with play-doh is reminding her to put it back into the containers so it doesn’t dry up.
At a playgroup one time I overheard the other moms talking about doing glow-in-the-dark baths for their toddlers. What?! I had to find out. It’s simple: give your kids a couple of glow bracelets and dim the lights. Suddenly, bath time is fascinating. This is often the reward at the end of a good day… sometimes it’s just to give mommy a break. I’ve never tested it but I think she would play in the bath with glow sticks until the water got cold. Sometimes I can find 15-packs in the dollar spot at Target. Amazon sells 100 for $9.
Ali got some paint-with-water books for Christmas, but honestly her favorite thing is to just make abstract paintings on plain white paper. I’ve always been a lover of abstract art so I find each of her creations to be masterpieces worth hanging on my office walls. This pack of Crayola Washable Watercolors is my favorite. Last summer (when she was turning 2) we only painted outside. Now that she’s approaching 3, she paints at the kitchen table strapped into her buckle booster. I have the paper on a placemat and I use a heavy mug for the water. Clean up is pretty easy with a damp cloth. She uses some of my old higher quality paintbrushes.
I’m sure you are all familiar with this classic toy. I don’t have much to say except that it gets a lot of play.
Play Kitchen / Tea Set
Jason and I both drink coffee and tea (respectively) several times throughout the day so Ali is used to seeing us with a mug of hot liquid. I think it’s for that reason that her tea set gets so much play time. Sometimes I let her have real tea in her cup, which she loves. Usually it’s imaginary tea: sparkle tea for me and chocolate tea for her. This was my first Green Toys purchase. They’re all made from recycled food-grade plastics and have a nice tactile texture. I found a play kitchen for Ali off of craigslist.
We have crocheted food handmade by Ali’s Nana, cloth breakfast food and vegetable sets from IKEA, and some second-hand Melissa & Doug wooden play food. Ali loves to practice her chef skills slicing apart the M&D Cutting Food set. I’d definitely recommend this to a friend.
I think this is a given at any age but it’s always good to have a good bouncy ball around. While it’s not usually an independent activity, Ali and I have spent many rainy or cold days playing soccer or catch. On her first intensive day of potty training when we spent hours in the kitchen, soccer was a life-saver.
Again, this doesn’t need much explanation. It got a ton of play time from age 18 months-present 2.75 years. We just moved it outside a few months ago. It used to be in our den/playroom. I stalked craigslist until I found a good deal on one that hadn’t been sun-bleached outside.
There are lots of options for this one. Drape a blanket between two pieces of furniture. Turn a big cardboard box on it’s side. (Pictured below: Ali and her BFF Jaron in the box fort in his bedroom.) Buy a play tent. Or do like I did and make a playhouse out of a sheet that fits snuggly over a card table. I only get this out when I’m desperate and it always works to keep Ali busy for a while.
This is also not an independent activity because it requires supervision but this is an addition to my list from Buzz last summer. We spent many, many hours at my parents’ swimming pool and these Cars diving toys were a big hit with both kids. Buzz’s mom bought him a set last summer and I plan to get Ali some for this summer. I’m praying she’s tall enough to stand on her toes in the shallow end like Buzz was last summer…
A wading pool. Water guns. A watering can. A bucket and a hose. Whatever you’ve got – toddlers love experimenting with it. Dumping, splashing, drinking, blowing bubbles, etc.
I make my own bubble solution. Ali is starting to get the hang of blowing bubbles with a bubble wand at this age. (And Buzz was doing it last summer at this age.) Last year, she relied a lot on the battery operated bubble gun. She also has a bubble mower that gets a lot of playtime.
The story of Alianna joining our family, A Home for Ali. is featured on Capture Hope, along with some beautiful photos from 535 Photo. I love Capture Hope and it’s mission “From Darkness into Light” … sharing stories of hope and testimonies of God’s goodness. We were honored to be interviewed and photographed by Rebekah several weeks ago. She took hours of Jason and me rambling on and on about foster care, adoption and the amazing kids we’ve had the privilege of parenting; and she turned it into a creative journal format. I love Ali’s testimony and I’m delighted to share it any time I have a chance.
At 2.75 years old, Ali had her first professional haircut. I’ve snipped at tangled and frayed ends a few times but this was the first real haircut at a salon. Our friend Sierra at Troubadour Salon cuts both Jason’s and my hair and she was glad to give our little girl her first trim. (Sierra is 7 months pregnant with her first little baby boy, by the way.) Ali did great!
Where is her real mommy?
I knew questions like this would come but it still caught me off guard. The three year old girl didn’t ask me directly; it was a question for her mom who was telling me later—and perhaps also asking. We’re loose acquaintances so she doesn’t know our story. That mom had suggested to her daughter that she ask Alianna. I told her Ali wouldn’t know how to answer that question. I left it at that. I could have said so much more and I’ve been mulling over what I should have or could have said for hours now.
The question bothers me partly because of the word real. Anyone who knows about adoption etiquette knows that’s a buzz word. I’m her real mom. Her biological mom is her real mom. Neither of us is fake or pretend. We’ve both very real and we’ve both very mom. Alianna is my real daughter and we’re a real family. It also bothers me a bit that this mother and daughter discussed the possible reasons for Ali’s adoption… “Maybe her real mom was sick.” The answer to this question is too complicated for a three year old and too personal for a loose acquaintance.
I’m pretty gracious with adoption questions and I don’t expect everyone to have the right words to use. However, the reason this poorly-worded, intrusive question made me sick to my stomach was the thought of a three year old peer asking it to my two year old daughter. Ali is confident and out-going but she would have no idea how to answer this question in 2.5 year old terms. I hate to think that it would give her a moment of panic… Is my mom not real? Is she not my real mom? Is she lost?
The three year old girl must be observing that often families match skin and hair colors. (Or has someone pointed it out to her?) We were in a fairly diverse setting but apparently transracial families and adoptive families are not common in her circles. I asked Ali later if she’s noticed that we don’t look alike—that she has brown skin and black curly hair and mommy has lighter skin—I stopped myself there because the look she was giving me said, No kidding. Why would or should we look alike? I might as well have been asking if she’s noticed the sky is blue and the grass is green. Then I realized that adoptive and transracial families are very common in our lives. It’s probably never crossed her might that we “should” look alike. There is nothing unusual about her family from her perspective at this point in her life.
Since I’ve been over-analyzing this conversation, I’ve come up with a response for this three year old girl in preschool terms. Here it goes:
I am Ali’s real mommy. She had a different mommy before me. She grew in her first mommy’s tummy. Her birth mommy loved Ali very much but she wasn’t able to take care of her so some helpers found Ali new parents—us. We adopted Ali into our family and we’ve been her parents ever since.
If she wants to know why her birth mom couldn’t take care of her: She was dealing with some really big grown-up problems and she needed to learn how to take better care of herself.
If she wants to know who the helpers were: They’re social workers who work for agencies—Child Protective Services and the Department of Childrens Services—that watch out for kids to make sure that they’re safe and their needs are met.
If she wants to know what adoption is: It’s when a judge decrees that we’re a real, official family—real parents and a real child—forever and ever.
If she wants to know where her birth mom is now: I don’t know for sure. She still lives in Nashville but we don’t see her very often.
(Picture at the top is Alianna with her birth mommy—her other real mommy. Blurred for her privacy.)